"Let's give away a guitar!", said Paul (owner/founder of Paul Reed Smith guitars)
Thus began the end of a really good day.
It actually started the day before where I had finished giving a rousing presentation and demo at the IBM Future Interfaces Conference at MIT in Cambridge, MA. Which, by the way, had the best science lab I’ve ever seen:
I would tell you all about my presentation, but then I'd have to answer to Watson, and he's really not happy with me after I made fun of him. But I can tell you that I was at an emotional high...at least at that time I thought it was my emotional high for the weekend.
Boy, was I wrong. :-)
The morning after my Future Interfaces success, I drove down from Boston to Stevensville Maryland (just next to Baltimore). Amazing drive! I fully under-appreciated how accessible the east coast is. Oh, and I had some quality time with my iPod :-)
My destination? The PRS Experience. Paul Reed Smith, founder of PRS Guitars, loves his customers and dealers so he puts on an "open house" with players (like me), artists (like Mark Tremonti, Johnny Hiland, and David Grissom:
I knew this was going to be a good day...
I knew my current emotional high would be carried through by what I was about to experience...
I didn't know just how good it would be...
I wake up and walk out of the hotel to wait for the PRS shuttle. 10 PRS fans await with me...the nicest group you could ever meet. Some have their own guitars to have artists and PRSh (Paul Reed Smith himself) sign. Some have shirts. All have a grateful attitude that this 2 day open house is free.
Amazingly, I meet a friend. I don't have good friends anywhere. I met one here. John. Older guy who's wife died and has always wanted to own a PRS, and who's daughter urged him to come to the PRS Experience. We form a bond that I'll never forget.
I get off the bus, and receive a crazy-cool packet of PRS stuff: hat, shirt, stickers, keychain. I walk up to a tent and see an intimate session where Johnny Hiland is talking about his guitar...and playing some of the most amazing guitar I've ever seen (Watch this)
I walk to the 'spin and win' wheel...where Mark Tremonti walks by...I shake his hand and personally thank him for redefining hard rock for me...from an angry, tense experience...into a beautiful soundscape of hope, melodic lyrics, and rockin guitar you could sing to.
Oh, and I spun and got some cool PRS guitar picks, and unfortunately get a lousy raffle ticket.
I spend the rest of the day amazed at how guitars are made, played, and got an education I’ll never forget.
Then the evening approaches.
The main show consists of stunning music. All 1400 of us are at the same time both inspired to practice more, and depressed at how we'll never be that good that we think we may never want to play again.
My emotional high has not wavered...it has been an outstanding day.
...It is about to change.
PRSh walks on stage...hushes the crowd. "This is the part of the the show that I am most excited about", he says with a big smile.
"Let's give away a guitar!", he shouts.
We shout in agreement! Most of us are excited for some lucky fan...because we know we never win anything.
...the mood of the night is the closest to Heaven I've been in...we're all rooting for each other...sharing the love of a common instrument...and talking about how grateful we are all to be there.
His assistant walks out with a big, black case.
Paul opens it up, and pulls out a real beauty. "This is our new Starla. Fresh from the factory". Now, we're talking really fresh...the factory is only 100 feet away. Bigsby tremolo...a rare thing on PRS guitars, Cherry red, and custom pickups that sound amazing.
"Someone here will win this guitar months before it even goes on sale. You'll be the first in the world to own one". We all look around for some other that will jump at their name.
He raises a bowl 1/2 full of raffle tickets....
...my mind snaps to attention...the raffle tickets couldn't be purchased...only won from that 'spin and win' wheel...the same raffle ticket I was disappointed in winning...mind spinning...spinning...
He pulls out a single ticket.
"Hmm", he mutters to his assistant...asking how to pronounce the name? Sweet! My name is hard to pronounce...
"OK! We have a winner..."
"Wow, all the way from..."
At this point my mind... my heart...stomach...eyes, my whole being is spinning...
AAAAH! I can't get excited! CALM DOWN! YOU NEVER WIN UNLESS IT'S CRAPPY TRADE SHOW STUFF!
...but how many people traveled from Minnesota!?!
"The winner is... Gre..."
I don't fully recall when exactly I jumped up and shouted "YEAH!!!"...if I waited until my full name was said, but I truly only remember my first name announced...and the slow-motion jump that would have been perfect for an energy drink ad.
My new friend John was so happy for me.
Turns out, everyone was so happy for me! Again...like what I imagine Heaven being like. I walk towards the stage...I'm getting cheers, back slaps, hand shakes...the fellow PRS fans are truly happy. Not even teasing "in fun".
I get on stage and shake Paul's hand. He hands me the guitar. He asks, "You dig Bigsby!?!"
I say, "Yeah, I dig Bigsby!"
"What? You hate Bigsby!?" PRSh shouts...I hope he's joking...
"NO, I LOVE BIGSBY!". I shout back over the laughing crowd…He winks.
He puts the guitar in the case, hands me the case, and asks for another round of applause.
Now, in my dreams I would have either bowed, or pulled the guitar out and started to play "Garden of Eden" by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (Seriously. Listen to it. It rocks!) to the cheer of the crowd. Instead I just walk off stage with Paul's assistant...
...a huge smile...
Later, I ask her how I should bring this on the plane for my trip home. She says, "Oh, heavens. Let us ship it using our secure shipping boxes". So nice.
I arrive home, await for my guitar (much like Doc Brown waiting for Marty McFly at the end of Back to the Future), and play it the next Sunday. The sound is truly amazing. Rich, thick, with what I can only describe as "Ballsy". It shimmers with the tremolo, and it tunes down to dropped-D wonderfully.
It is now my favorite guitar for hard rock songs.
Someday I'll be asked what the best day of my life was...I'll probably answer with the words 'wedding' or 'birth of a child', but somewhere deep in my mind...I may just be thinking of this day.